Dock of the Bay
Sea Harvest’s new Moss Landing location serves great seafood by the seashore.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
I’m at peace when I’m near the ocean. It’s probably some recessed childhood memory I can’t seem to touch. But it’s there. In particular, I’m fond of life that breathes in and around the sea: the birds, the brave little fish, the bully big ones, the smells, and even the boats.
Given all of that, the choice was quite simple when Guy and I strolled into the new Sea Harvest Restaurant and Market in Moss Landing just before sunset last week: cold as it was, we’d have to sit at a table out on the deck. Poor Guy. I think he just wanted dinner. I, on the other hand, needed the whole experience. Besides, he was wearing a jacket.
A corner table under a cozy heat lamp beckoned. As I made my way over, an enormous pelican perched on a wooden post peeking up above the sea caught my eye. He seemed to be watching me, too. Maybe it was the shoes. So I skirted the intended table and sat as close to the pelican as I could. Okay, so the heat lamp was a little further away now. But…but that beautiful pelican.
My peace offering to Guy was an appetizer of a half-pound of peel-n-eat prawns ($7.95) and a Corona; for me, a glass of Mountain View Chardonnay ($3.95).
I frequent the other Sea Harvests around the county, and I particularly like that anything in their fish case can be served up to order. But this Sea Harvest is different, much different. Same no-nonsense menu—appetizers, of oysters, shrimp, prawns, you name it, main dishes of pretty much any fish any way you like it, a couple of chicken dishes, and a few lunchable salads—and the same reasonable prices. But it’s the ambiance here that gets you. Perhaps this one should have been called Sea Harvest Restaurant and Experiential Nirvana.
Our prawns arrived, and the picture was mostly complete. They were warm to the touch, served with drawn butter, mild cocktail sauce, and plenty of lemon. They were simply grand. Cold and without the butter is how I’m used to them. These were far better, and a beautiful pairing with the wine. I’m not sure that I wanted either to end. I ordered more wine to let it linger.
It was as if conversation would ruin the moment. Somewhere nearby, behind the jetty perhaps, a child must have been pulling strands of raw spun silk back and forth across the glass-topped sea. The wisps were catching what was left of the sun and tossing the glistening beams into the air like little beads of confetti until they were gone, and the sun was beginning to shine in some other locale far over the horizon. The pelican sat silently and watched. We all did.
The chill began to set in when the sun disappeared, but the fire from the lamps subtly warmed the night air. The wine helped, too.
My baby pink grilled salmon ($12.95) was topped with a light, creamy dill sauce, and I could smell the sprinkle of lemon. It flaked in heavenly fashion at the very touch of a fork, peeling itself away into bite-sized bits. The light grill gave it a barely-there smoky flavor, and it was irresistible from first bite.
Guy had an array of skewered tempura seafood ($9.95) that was quite impressive in its diversity: salmon, prawns, swordfish, scallops, and plenty of local vegetables.
About midway, I noticed he was eyeing my grill, and I offered a mid-meal swap. Though it was difficult to pass over my grilled sensation, I wanted to toy with his tempura. He agreed.
The breading on the tempura was light, practically nonexistent, and left the fish and vegetables to fend for their practically-naked selves. I’m leery of scallops. They can taste tinny to me if not fresh and cooked properly. So I tasted with trepidation. But these were indeed fresh, flavorful, and were outdone only by the sensational swordfish. It was a generous platter, a good sampling of the fish case inside, and not tortured, or even scathed, by the fryer.
Guy finished off my salmon. He’s a rather temperamental seafood diner, easily put off by heavy, fishy tastes, particularly with salmon since he rarely misses a season to snag a fresh one or two himself before taking great pride in their preparation.
“Well, was it as good as yours?” I asked. He grinned a conceding smile, then turned back to the nightscape of the bay above a sea that seemed to stretch from far beneath us to some distant place we’d never been.
We were the only ones left on the patio. And so, with darkness swaddling us, and the burners from the heat lamps on overtime, we decided to call it a night. The pelican was still perched on the post nearby, maybe hoping to swoop in for leftovers. There weren’t any. It was all too uncomplicated, too fresh, too good to be left behind.
The hustle and bustle of the inside dining room seemed like a world away. Diners waited at the door to get a seat. Servers scurried in and out of the kitchen. Shoppers browsed the fish case for take-homes.
“It’s pretty warm out there under the heaters,” I suggested to a friendly and chatty couple waiting at the door.
“Really? Let’s try it,” one of them urged the other. And off they went. I hope they saw what I saw. I hope they saw the pelican.
Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant
2420 Highway 1, Moss Landing
Open daily 11am-8pm